EU agrees £43billion Ukraine aid package after pressuring Hungary’s Viktor Orban to drop his veto, in huge blow to Putin

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • European Council President Charles Michel said the deal was struck in Brussels  just over an hour into a summit of the bloc’s leaders
  • Ukraine’s President Zelensky hailed the deal, saying the package would ‘strengthen long-term economic and financial stability’ of his embattled country

All 27 countries in the European Union have sealed a £43billion (€50bn) deal on aid to Ukraine in a huge blow to Vladimir Putin and a massive boost to Kyiv.

European Council President Charles Michel said the 27 EU countries sealed the deal just over an hour into a summit of the bloc’s leaders, and despite threats from Hungary’s leader Viktor Orban – Russia’s closest EU ally – to veto the move.

‘We have a deal,’ Michel said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

He wrote that all ’27 leaders agreed on an additional 50-billion-euro ($54 billion) support package for Ukraine within the EU budget.’

The announcement came despite staunch objections from Hungary in December and in the days leading up to Thursday’s summit in Brussels.

Michel said that the move ‘locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine,’ and demonstrates that the ‘EU is taking leadership and responsibility in support for Ukraine; we know what is at stake.’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the deal.

All 27 countries in the European Union have sealed a £43billion deal on aid to Ukraine in a huge blow to Vladimir Putin and a massive boost to Kyiv

European Council President Charles Michel said the 27 EU countries sealed the deal just over an hour into a summit of the bloc's leaders, and despite threats from Hungary 's leader Viktor Orban - the closest EU ally of Vladimir Putin (pictured) - to veto the move

European Council President Charles Michel said the 27 EU countries sealed the deal just over an hour into a summit of the bloc’s leaders, and despite threats from Hungary ‘s leader Viktor Orban – the closest EU ally of Vladimir Putin (pictured) – to veto the move

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the deal, saying the package would 'strengthen long-term economic and financial stability' of his embattled country

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the deal, saying the package would ‘strengthen long-term economic and financial stability’ of his embattled country

‘It is very important that the decision was made by all 27 leaders, which once again proves strong EU unity,’ Zelensky said in a statement on social media.

He added that the package would ‘strengthen long-term economic and financial stability’ of his embattled country.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal also spoke, thanking EU leaders.

‘Each of your votes is a significant contribution to our joint victory,’ Shmygal said in a message on social media thanking member states, adding that the agreement was a display of ‘solidarity’ and ‘unity’ in the 27-member bloc.

EU leaders were piling the pressure on Orban ahead of the summit, as the unpredictable Hungarian leader once more took centre stage.

The latest EU showdown took place against the backdrop of swelling protests by European farmers, who clogged roads around the summit with 1,300 tractors in a show of strength, lighting fires and pulling down a city statue.

Orban sparked fury from his 26 counterparts in the bloc by thwarting a December deal to keep the desperately needed funds flowing to Kyiv nearly two years into Moscow’s invasion.

Speaking on arrival at the summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the goal should be a unanimous agreement on maintaining the aid. ‘We need an agreement at 27,’ he told reporters. ‘We shouldn’t look out for workarounds.’

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte struck an upbeat tone, saying he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ that a deal could be found if Hungary was willing to compromise.

Michel’s announcement comes as a surprise. 

Facing down Orban, a veteran of numerous run-ins with Brussels, was not expected to be easy and the political arm-wrestling in the EU capital was set to last for hours.

Orban sparked fury from his 26 counterparts in the bloc by thwarting a December deal to keep the desperately needed funds flowing to Kyiv nearly two years into Moscow 's invasion

Orban sparked fury from his 26 counterparts in the bloc by thwarting a December deal to keep the desperately needed funds flowing to Kyiv nearly two years into Moscow ‘s invasion

Orban, the EU leader with the closest ties to Russia, is angry at the European Commission’s decision to freeze his government’s access to some of the bloc’s funds. The executive branch did so over concerns about possible threats to the EU budget posed by democratic backsliding in Hungary.

In response, Hungary vetoed statements at the EU on a range of issues. 

Orban’s also exported the problem to NATO, by blocking high level meetings with Ukraine until only recently. Budapest is also holding up Sweden’s bid for membership in the military organisation.

On their way into their meeting, several fellow leaders had lashed out at Orban, accusing him of blackmail and playing political games that undermined support for Ukraine and the country’s war-ravaged economy. 

‘I don’t want to use the word blackmail, but I don’t know what other better word’ might fit, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told reporters as she arrived at EU headquarters today before the deal was agreed.

‘Hungary needs Europe,’ she said, highlighting the country’s own economic problems and high interest rates. 

‘He should also look into what it is in it for Hungary, being in Europe.’

It was not immediately clear if the EU had agreed to any concessions with Hungary in exchange for the Ukraine aid deal being agreed.

Ukrainian soldiers of the 41st brigade stand in a trench near the frontline, outside Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, on January 23, 2024

Ukrainian soldiers of the 41st brigade stand in a trench near the frontline, outside Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, on January 23, 2024

Almost two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war has ground to a halt and Ukraine’s economy desperately needs propping up. 

But political infighting in the EU and in the United States has held up a long-term source of funding, with Ukraine said to be running low on both fire and manpower.

Concern has mounted that public support to keep pouring money into Ukraine has also started to wane, even though a Russian victory could embolden Putin and threaten security across Europe, particularly in the east.

‘There is no problem with the so-called Ukraine fatigue issue. We have Orban fatigue now in Brussels,’ Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters Thursday. ‘I can’t understand. I can’t accept this very strange and very egoistic game of Viktor Orban.’

As the EU leaders met in Brussels, the Kremlin said European officials talking up the prospect of a war with Russia were seeking to demonise Moscow as an enemy and warned that the US would try to make Europe foot the bill for supporting Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked about a Wall Street Journal report that European officials had expressed concern about the risk of a conflict with Russia, said: “The situation is obvious: These are attempts to demonise Russia, to create the image of an enemy who is used to knock out additional money from taxpayers.” 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – something it calls a special military operation – triggered the biggest confrontation between the West and Russia since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and both Moscow and Washington have warned of the risk of a conflict between NATO and Russia.

A Ukrainian tank crew member looks out from a tank as he holds his position near to the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on December 13, 2023

A Ukrainian tank crew member looks out from a tank as he holds his position near to the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on December 13, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden warned in 2022 that a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia would trigger World War Three. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin had dismissed Biden’s remarks that Russia would attack NATO, but Western officials have pointed  to Russian denials that its troops would attack Ukraine ahead of the 2022 war.

The West has given Ukraine around $250 billion in aid and weapons, but a Ukrainian summer counteroffensive failed, denting hopes of a victory.

Russia remains in control of just under a fifth of Ukrainian territory.

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